Pastor hopes to raise $260K for wrongly convicted

DETROIT (AP) - A Detroit pastor is seeking to raise money for at least 13 men who were wrongly convicted to give them a fresh start.

Terrence Devezin, the pastor of the United Kingdom Church, said he set up a GoFundMe page named "Justice for the Michigan 13" that aims to raise $260,000 to give the men $20,000 apiece. He told The Detroit News he believes they are also owed a public apology for the many years they served in prison for crimes they never committed.

"I feel these men have been taken to a remote island and dropped off," Devezin said.

Justly Johnson, 44, was released following an 18-year prison stint after he and another man, Kendrick Scott, were wrongly convicted of killing a mother of three on Mother's Day in 1999.

Both men were exonerated in November 2018 with the help of the Michigan Innocence Clinic and the testimony of the woman's son, who noted that the men were not his mother's killers, and other new evidence.

"A lot of guys are basically struggling," said Johnson, who is celebrating his first birthday and Thanksgiving with his family in 20 years.

Michael Powels also is among the 13. He served 12 years for a murder he was wrongfully convicted for in 2007. He was exonerated after help from the clinic at the University of Michigan Law School.

"This GoFundMe (effort) is really a wonderful thing," Powels said. "It's been hard for guys like me to adjust. Funds like this need to be nationwide."

Powels noted that the fund could help with housing, finding work, clothing needs and other "basic necessities."

Like himself, Johnson added that many of the exonerated men are for the state of Michigan to decide on whether those eligible will be receiving state subsidies as part of the 2016 Michigan Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act, which is to provide exonerees with $50,000 for each year they were incarcerated. State officials in Lansing have not yet formalized this year's funding.

In September, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel created a four-member Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act Board to review requests and make suggestions about cases.

Published: Wed, Nov 27, 2019